5 Wake County high schools dismiss early due to air conditioner problems

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Thursday, September 7, 2023
3 Wake County high schools dismiss early due to air conditioner problems
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Apex Friendship High School dismissed students at 9:30 a.m. due to the HVAC issues.

KNIGHTDALE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Three Wake County Public School System high schools had to dismiss early Wednesday because of air conditioning problems and that continued into Thursday.

Apex Friendship High School, Knightdale High School, and Willow Spring High School all dismissed students before noon.

The schools issued statements saying the HVAC system was not working at full capacity, and due to forecast high temperatures, they decided to send students home.

Willow Spring High will be closed Thursday and all indoor after-school activities have been canceled, said Principal Wade Martin.

"We know this continues to be a frustrating situation for our students, families, and staff. Despite our best efforts, we continue to have problems with the chiller for our HVAC system.

Our vendor has been working on repairs consistently over the past few days, but we continue to experience difficulties with the units. The vendor will continue to work on this throughout the day tomorrow, and we will update you as soon as we know more," Martin said in an email.

Apex Friendship High dismissed at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

After-school activities will be held Thursday with some changes to times and locations.

Gates Henry is a senior at Apex Friendship High School and described the challenges at school on Wednesday.

"Most of my classes are on the third and fourth floor, so it was pretty hot up there. So my teachers have fans going on, but it was definitely distracting being in there just sweating. It was hard to learn. It was hard to do my work," he said.

And administrators realize the rising temperatures too. Gates says school leaders announced classes were ending early today

"Mr. White came on the intercom and just said, it's it's too hot in here for productive learning. We're going to send everybody home," Gates said.

The same issues were happening across Wake County at Knightdale and Willow Springs High Schools. ABC11 was there as students left their hot classrooms and headed home.

On Wednesday evening, Apex Friendship principal Brian Pittman sent an email to families saying that the air conditioning was operating at a limited capacity and that it was struggling to cool the third and fourth floors of the building.

"We are waiting on parts that will increase the capacity of our system to meet the need. We do not anticipate either issue -- the parts need or the excessive heat -- will resolve by tomorrow," Pittman said in the email.

Pittman said the school's goal is to return to normal on Friday.

Gates' dad, Todd Henry said the delay was the right call

"Absolutely. I completely agree. Nobody wants to work in the heat," he said. "Obviously we want to have the kids get a good education. And if they're running on empty, you got to make an alternative plans."

Over at Millbrook High School, teachers and students are also making alternative plans. The air conditioning system isn't fully functioning in one part of the school. Classes in the 100 building were moved to other parts of the school.

Student Victoria Harwell said she is feeling the impact

"I was asking my teacher why it was so hot, and they said they haven't fixed air conditioning and in a while," she said.

Also on Thursday, South Garner High School and Wake Forest Elementary School released students early.